Lawsuits filed in fatal car crash involving Hialeah detective

05/07/2013 3:34 PM

05/08/2013 3:23 AM

A School Board member whose daughter died in an accident with a Hialeah police detective has sued the city.

Also suing City Hall: the girl’s boyfriend, who was seriously injured in the Oct. 19 wreck.

Susie Castillo, who was elected to the School Board in November, filed suit Tuesday against the city of Hialeah and Detective Raul Somarriba in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

Castillo’s daughter Andrea, 21, was with her boyfriend Marco Barrios, 23, when Somarriba, who was on duty, collided with Barrios’ SUV at East Ninth Court and 49th Street. The force of the impact flipped Barrios’ black Jeep Compass and sent Somarriba’s unmarked Ford Crown Victoria flying over a median.

Castillo died two days after the crash.

Barrios sued the city on May 1, also in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

Within days of the crash, the Hialeah Police Department announced it had determined Barrios caused the collision by running a stop sign. According to the police, Somarriba had not been speeding and the couple had not been wearing seat belts during the crash, which occurred around 9:45 p.m.

John Leighton, Barrios’ lawyer, said Tuesday he has obtained surveillance footage from a nearby business that shows Somarriba hitting Barrios and raises the question of speed.

“You can see this brand new, full-size SUV being tossed around like a rag doll,” he said. “If somebody says speed wasn’t a factor, they’re living on another planet.”

Leighton said Barrios, who has recently begun walking again after spending about five months in a wheelchair, is not insured and has amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. He suffered a broken collarbone, ribs and pelvis, in addition to head injuries.

Florida law caps the city’s liability in these types of cases at $200,000 per injured person and $300,000 per incident. Should a jury rule in Barrios’ favor, Leighton said Barrios would still be left with any remaining expenses.

Carl Zogby, spokesman for the Hialeah police, said the department could not comment because the incident is still under investigation.

The state attorney’s office is currently investigating the case, according to Ed Griffith, spokesman for the Miami-Dade State Attorney.

Susie Castillo’s suit also alleges that Somarriba was speeding and accuses the Hialeah Fire Department of negligence for not air-lifting Castillo to the hospital.

Somarriba, who suffered a broken leg and arm and head injuries and underwent a 10-hour operation after the crash, was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital. The couple was taken by ambulance.

Officials have previously told The Herald that the decision to airlift only the detective was made by emergency personnel at the scene, and that decision did not affect the outcomes of the patients.

Susie Castillo’s attorney, Carlos Silva, said the reason for the decision is “simple.”

“It’s preferential treatment,” he said.

Castillo said in an emailed statement that she is looking for accountability in the death of her daughter, who is survived by her parents and brother Kevin.

“We strongly feel that those who are responsible for my daughter Andrea’s death at the age of 21 should be held accountable so that no other family has to go through the pain we are going through now,” she wrote.

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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